Sunday, November 24, 2013

Goodbye to Brian McCann

photo courtesy SI.com

Brian accepted a $85M, 5 year deal with the Yankees this weekend. That's hard to stomach for me as a fan, since like every good American baseball fan, I think the Yankees are scum. Still, it's better than him ending up on an NL team like the Phillies or Cubs that we have to play every year.

Like Tim Hudson, Brian McCann spent 9 years with the Braves, and for many fans who started watching the game near the beginning of the millenium, he's likely the only catcher they associate with the team. He's been a mainstay behind the plate for nearly a decade, and in that time he amassed an impressive amount of slugging stats. Brian had 176 homers, 227 doubles, 2 triples (I assume somebody fell down in the outfield on those), 661 RBIs, over 1000 hits, an average of .277 and an OPS of .823 for his Atlanta career. He was an all-star 7 times during that tenure, and he won the Silver Slugger 5 times. In short, he's one of the best catchers if not the most decorated catcher that the Braves have ever had on the team. Relax Javy Lopez fans, he's right there on the list too.

Brian will have the unique distinction of winning a division on the front and back end of his career in Atlanta, with a gap of none in between. During that time, the Braves were mostly a rebuilding effort while the Phillies dominated the NL East. As they approached the 2010 year, the Braves finally made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. However, they lost to the Giants who eventually won the World Series. From that point on, Brian's numbers began to take a dive. There were questions whether the Braves would bring him back in 2013 on his $12M option. But they did, and his 2013 season was marked better than 2012, one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. Brian hit .230 in 2012 with only 20 homers in 439 ABs, but in 2013 even coming off injury for a month, he hit .256 with 20 homers in just 356 ABs.

I'm sorry to see Brian go because of what he's meant to the Braves both on the field and in the clubhouse. However, I was one of those people who questioned bringing him back in 2013 in the first place due to his age and production. Brian will be 30 when this contract takes place until he's 35. From a straight numbers standpoint, catchers begin to lose their ability to hit in their 30s due to all the wear and tear. While that's a problem for an NL team, an AL team like the Yankees could move Brian to DH when he's no longer able to be an everyday battery guy. I think the Yankees are taking a risk with Brian since he's had injury problems and hasn't posted an OPS over .800 since 2011. However, they are the Yankees and they can afford to overpay people with their giant payroll. 

I think we all want to wish Brian good luck in NY, but I can honestly say I won't root for the Yankees if it comes down to them in the world series just because Brian is on the team. It's the Yankees. I can't do it. I won't do it. Still, I hope Brian hits like 40 homers and gives those fans in NY a good show before they get drummed out of the playoffs like the overspending bunch of cheaters they are. Oh and Brian? Punch A-Rod in the face for us when you get the chance, buddy.

We'll miss you Brian.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goodbye to Tim Hudson



Huddy is leaving us for the West Coast, back to region where he began his career. We'll be losing a pitcher that spent 9 seasons in Atlanta, and anchored a staff that for the most part was very successful in that time. But the Giants are spending like morons and paying a 38 year old pitcher $23M for 2 years, until he's 40. I honestly can't say that makes baseball sense on its face, and the Braves certainly can't afford to unleash the limited wallet on a late 30s starter who might be a #2 or #3 in the rotation.

Still, it sucks to lose a guy who meant that much to both the Braves and the Atlanta community. Tim and his wife were involved in numerous charitable causes across the state, and he was impressive on the field as well. Tim amassed 113 wins, an ERA of 3.56, 9 complete games, 5 shutouts, and a WHIP of 1.24 in his Atlanta career. Those are pretty awesome numbers for a guy who was pitching most of that time in his 30s.

My memories of Tim will include his 7 innings of 1 run ball in the 2010 playoffs against the Giants, right before Kimbrel absolutely blew the game in a rare 9th inning disaster. I'll remember that Tim was the reason the Braves rallied back in 2012 after the 2011 collapse, and he had 16 wins on that season. I'll remember absolutely despairing as Tim snapped his leg at first base this season, just when we thought the rotation was coming together for the playoff run. Mostly I'll remember that there was no better guy to have on the mound at home than Tim. He would absolutely dominate inside Turner Field, and his stats over the last 3 years, 22-9 with a 2.96 ERA at home, speak volumes about his success.

Still, we have to wish Tim farewell, and soon we'll have to do the same with his battery-mate Brian McCann. It's going to be one of the youngest teams in baseball playing in 2014 for the Braves, and the leadership role will have to fall to guys like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. After all, the last connections to the 2005 division winning Braves are all gone. It's time to start a new streak.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Happens to Turner Field?

That's the question I've heard most over the last couple of days since the Braves announced what's going to happen with the move to Cobb County. I can't say I even thought much about it. The lease is up in 2016, and I had expected the Braves to either renovate the entire stadium, or move. Either way, the Ted as we know it wasn't going to be the Ted anymore. Well, we learned recently from Mayor Kassim Reed, that the stadium will be demolished, and replaced with, "one of the largest developments for middle-class people that the city has ever had."

Now, this is a baseball blog, not a blog about city politics and real estate. Sometimes, on rare occasions, those things intersect each other at the corner of Expiring Lease Dr. and New Stadium Blvd. What usually results is a trainwreck of posturing, promises, veiled insults, and outright lies. In this regard, the Atlanta Braves bypassed most of those problems playing out in the press. They achieved that by conducting the deal with Cobb County in iron-clad secrecy. They also made sure to not announce it until after the city elections, because the loss of the Braves to another county would have cost a lot of city officials their jobs in the polls. Not that I care one way or the other about the officials who ignored the stadium problems for years. They had their shot for the last 5 years to do something about the woeful transportation issues around Turner Field, and their solution was to make all the fans tromp through Underground Atlanta to ride a bus. Why? Because the City owns the rights to Underground, and it never gets enough foot traffic. Yeah.

But now, the city is promising to bring in a developer to put together a massive middle-class development on the Turner Field footprint.


That's Turner Field and the surrounding parking lots that could open up to provide space for this proposed development. Now, if you're thinking Atlantic Station, I'd put that out of your mind given what Reed is saying. Atlantic Station's stores and rents are about as far from middle-class as you can get. If the middle class can afford $2,200 a month in rent for a 2 bedroom loft, then I think our country is doing a lot better than I'm hearing on the news. So, it won't be something like that. What I believe they will try to do is create something that would provide apartments and high rise living for people that already work in the downtown and financial districts, but can't or don't want to pay some of the Midtown prices.

The land is certainly there. My concern is who will develop it? Just looking at a site like map.atlantadev.com I don't see a single housing development on the radar that's scheduled below I-20. This would be a major undertaking for a company in an area that a lot of developers are ignoring, and have frankly ignored for years. These people aren't like public officials like Mayor Reed, and they expect to make a tidy profit off whatever they put in the ground. Sometimes, it doesn't make economic sense to put a development in a bad location just because the City of Atlanta wants one there. Real estate still is about location, location, location.

Also, I question how fast these things move. The City of Atlanta isn't exactly know for it's foresight or expediency, as evidenced by Kassim Reed saying that the city had a one billion dollar infrastructure backlog, and that was the reason they couldn't make a deal with the Braves. So for a city that has over a billion in past infrastructure issues, that I can assure you didn't just occur overnight, it now is determined to put even more money into infrastructure developments for a community in the Turner Field area. Also, while Mayor Reed is adamant about this development now, who knows what economic factors the city faces in three years? The pipeline for these projects is in terms of several years themselves, and Mayor Reed will be in the last year of his second term right as the stadium is supposed to be demolished.

In short, I'm not sure I buy what the city is selling right now. It's easy to make promises about grand plans when you just got burned in the press for letting the team relocate. Will the City of Atlanta actually follow through? Given the track record in the past, and the amount of financial woes that may or may not come with the building of the Falcons stadium, I don't think anybody has any idea what will be standing on the Turner Field site in 2020, not even Mayor Reed.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Braves moving in 2017

Per a website opened by the Braves called HomeoftheBraves.com, the Braves will be moving to Cobb County in 2017. The move has apparently been in the works for a while now, and something that was frankly going to come to a head since the Turner Field lease is set to run out soon in 2016. Now that it's confirmed on the new location, I can add my commentary to what I think of the move.

The stadium will be built in the 75N and I285 corridor, right near Cobb Parkway. For those familiar with the area, it will be really close to the same area the Cobb Galleria is in. Why would they decide to put it out here instead of staying downtown? Here's a direct quote from the website:

The reason for moving is simple. The current location has certain issues that are insurmountable and will only become more problematic over the years. These fundamental issues involve how you, our fans, access Turner Field. There is a lack of consistent mass transportation, a lack of sufficient parking and a lack of direct access to interstates. Furthermore, the Braves do not have control over the development of our immediate surroundings.

Our new location will give us the opportunity to develop the surrounding area of the new ballpark, transforming it into a mixed use, 365-day destination and creating an enhanced atmosphere for our fans during Braves games. There also will be significantly increased access to the site, enhanced parking opportunities, and, generally, easier access to and from major roadways with a variety of other transportation options.
Picture courtesy HomeoftheBraves.com

As you can see on the picture, the site is just nestled in the North side of 285 and West side of 75. The Braves are being kind when they say certain issues have come up with Turner Field that are insurmountable. Let me be very clear what they mean by that. We all know that putting a stadium downtown is horrible from a traffic standpoint, and dealing with the city of Atlanta and Fulton County meant you have corrupt people trying to put their hands in your pockets whenever you build something. Ask Arthur Blank how many kickbacks and "neighborhood" payments he's had to make to get that Falcons deal done. There's a reason that budget keeps going up every 6 months, and the thing isn't even on the ground yet.

The Braves have hated their location for a long time, as have the fans. It's in a terrible neighborhood, surrounded by absolutely nothing in terms of restaurants, bars, or any kind of livable space. For the most part, the Braves fan demographic is primarily living in the North part of Atlanta. They did several studies on this in the past and realized how much revenue they were losing because people didn't want to travel from Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Marietta, Dunwoody, and Kennesaw, dealing with the primetime traffic of the 75/85 canyon, and not getting home until midnight after a night game.

While MARTA is a very viable option to a place like Phillips arena, it's never been a good option to the Braves, making fans not only get on a train, but also walk through a wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Underground Atlanta, just for the privilege to get on a bus that takes you to the stadium. Whenever you watched people make this trek through Underground, you could always spot the Braves fans, trying to move as fast as possible and not making eye contact with anyone. Yeah, that's a good plan, make the people dramatically uncomfortable just so they can hop on two forms of mass transit crammed cheek to cheek with the masses. As a result, most people opted to park, just adding to the traffic problem of downtown, and the lack of overall spaces around the stadium. A cottage industry of parking in several ghetto locations will probably be affected, but I don't think the Braves feel sorry about that at all.

The solution is to forget public transit. It doesn't work in our town for lots of reasons, but the main one is that people don't want to wait around for trains and busses with their families, and they like the freedom that driving gives them when coming or going. The solution was a site that offered a ton more parking that was much easier to get to than the small exits to Fulton Street off the 75/85 access roads. Also, it offers a chance for businesses to thrive around the area. Nobody was going to open a restaurant or bar near the current stadium. Up at the new location? There's already a ton of restaurants and hotels, bars and clubs, and shopping areas already in place. Fans want to be able to go to a game early, grab dinner, and walk over to the stadium all within reach. The most successful baseball parks in the country like Boston, Philly, New York, St. Louis, Chicago, all have surrounding cultures nearby the ballpark. They create these neighborhoods that transform on gamedays into wonderful hubs of food and fun. That's what the Braves are gunning for with this move.

Also don't be confused, they want to get closer to their customers. They know who and what kind of people go to Braves games, and this move puts them front and center for their audience on the North Side. It also gets them away from the clutches of the City of Atlanta government, and all the tax/corruption consequences that come with such a deal. 

Photo courtesy HomeoftheBraves.com

See that heat map? The red represents the ticket buyers for the Braves. Note the GIGANTIC swatch of Red that exists to the North of the Perimeter. If there could be any further doubt as to why the Braves wanted out, this spells it out in full color. You have to put your product in the hands our your customers, and not enough of them lived in the Atlanta city limits for that location to make any sense. I'm thrilled by the move as both a fan, and a person who enjoys not being hassled by the seedier elements of downtown Atlanta, the traffic, and the terrible public transport. Plus I enjoy people sticking it to Fulton County, who for years has tried their best to keep their foot on the throat of sports in this town, nevermind the fact that the majority of paying fans don't live there. Kudos to the Braves, Kudos to the front office, and I look forward to seeing my tickets in the new stadium.

GO BRAVES!